Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Game

Originally uploaded by tabrandt
I meant to say in the previous post that my daughters have started to play The Game on their mobile phones. They've taken to texting me to tell me they have lost the game thereby causing me to lose as well.

And, if you play the game... you've just lost too!

Of course, if you don't play the game, you will not have a clue what I'm talking about.

TeachMeet08@SLF: Mobile Games

The first rule of TeachMeet is...

I spoke at TeachMeet08 on the subject of Mobile Games - games you can play on a mobile phone. I tried to talk about how they might be useful in an educational context. I must admit to being a bit disappointed with myself. Ewan McIntosh was being very fierce in enforcing the no Powerpoint rule - and I panicked. I tried to do my spot without the aid of s presentation safety net and it didn't go well. You see, I use a presentation in much the same way as a drunk uses a lamppost - more for support than for illumination. It helps keep me on topic. Without a presentation, I fear I was a bit rambling (well more rambling than usual) and I definitely missed some stuff out that I meant to say. I got so confused at one point that Mark Pentleton had to remind me (via the Twitter backchannel): "it's Wednesday and you're not on an escalator" - perhaps you had to be there. :-)

However, it was after the event that I really got annoyed with myself. I'd read the wiki and I knew about the "No Powerpoint" rule... but I also knew about the get out clause. The TeachMeet rules say, "No PowerPoint allowed... unless... you're doing 20 slides for 20 seconds each". (I think it used to say this on the TeachMeet08 page too but I couldn't face ploughing through the history to see if it had been deleted and who changed it!) Anyway, that was my plan (and despite appearances to the contrary, I had planned what I was going to say). I created a presentation of twenty-three slides and planned to spend much less than twenty seconds on a number of them and a bit longer than twenty seconds on a few. You can see the result below as I've saved my presentation as a movie and added a soundtrack with more or less what I was going to say. It lasts seven minutes and thirty-five seconds - which I think is pretty darn good! (And if Ewan had been there, looking fierce and warning me when I had two minutes to go, I think I could have delivered it inside the seven minute mark!) So, this is what I might have said if Ewan hadn't frightened me. :-)

The photographs used in the presentation are all mine, or covered by a Creative Commons licence. It may have been difficult to see the photo credits on the presentation but it is impossible to see them in the video. So, here they are here: Bryan Adams High School Hallway by Dean Terry, spectrum2 by tetratoon, Sharp EL-8 by teclasorg, www.tecaeromex.com-59 by paulafunnell, Gethin loves Flickr, 13 Apr 08 by Castaway in Wales, Noo Possession by Saad, Moon landing from NASA, Watercrowns! blue by rumpelstiltskin1, Games by tabrandt and Is there anything at the end of the tunnel? by innoxiuss.

Games I mentioned included:
In the Flashmeeting chat from my bit of the evening Fons shared a link to 7scenes as another source of GPS enabled activities. I haven't had a chance check it out properly but it looks interesting. Also, after I'd spoken, a chap from Wild Knowledge came up to tell me about what they were doing. It's not exactly game based but I think their GPS based activities look interesting and they will probably feature in a post in the near future.

Also, in the Twitter backchannel, Derek Robertson reminded me of Spore. I was aware of Spore, but his prompt set me looking for information on Spore for phones other than the iPhone. The results of this search will form the basis of a future rant! You have been warned.

Finally, while in the Twitter backchannel, I can't resist blowing my own trumpet again. On the backchannel Ewan said, "David Muir always makes me want to be a teacher again when he speaks. Just as well he's the one teaching the teachers every day." From somebody I admire and have learned a bucketload of stuff from, I am more than a little pleased with this comment. I think I want Ewan to be a teacher again too - I would certainly love to have him teaching my children. Scottish Education's loss is very definitely Channel 4's gain. (Although I'm slightly confused by the second bit of the comment - I think he's saying that it's just as well I'm not in school, causing chaos with pupils!)

So there you are. My seven minute presentation more or less as I meant to do it complete with links and associated ramblings. Let me know what you think of mobile gaming in education and please tell me if you are doing it already.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


My MacBook was commandeered to host the FlashMeeting. (I think the FlashMeeting was set up, maintained and edited by David Noble - excellent work Mr Noble). This meant I couldn't do any live blogging from TeachMeet.

I thought about moblogging but just took some notes on my mobile instead which I've copied below. However, before I get to them, a couple of brief observations (more may follow - but don't hold your breath). First up - loads of people in the room. Some old friends, some people I only knew from their blogs, some that knew me from my blog. I'm sorry I didn't talk to half of you half as long as you deserved. (I'm especially sorry that I didn't get back round to one woman who started to talk to me outside the meet - sorry.)

Among the people in the room was the person in the centre of this picture - Stephen Heppell. (I've blogged about Prof. Heppell before - e.g. Heppell the Hero.) After taking this picture I paused briefly to have a chat and Professor Heppell spoke to me by name. I'd like to pretend I'm on first name terms with Stephen (good old Stevie-boy or "S" as I call him) but I suspect he only knew my name because of the large conference name tag I had round my neck. :-) Follow the photo link to my Flickr picture for the explanation of why it is so blurry!

There were also a whole bundle of people on the FlashMeeting - including David Warlick (someone else I've blogged about in the past). Forgive my boasting, but on the FlashMeeting chat, David said, "Dave Muir is my hero...". I'm very pleased with that. Not sure what the context was or how far has tongue was in his cheek but, sad though it may be to be pleased about this, I couldn't resist quoting it. (Note, I'm not repeating any of the cheeky lines - like Ian's "Nobody will understand david Muir"!)

Apart from blowing my own trumpet, why am I mentioning these people? Well, I think it shows one of the strengths of TeachMeet. Here are two people that I would gladly pay money to listen to, yet they were at TeachMeet to learn from numpties like me. And I think that's the point. Everyone in that room, or at the FlashMeeting, had something they could talk about, something they could share. Learning from each other and catching the enthusiasm and the ideas from peers. That's why TeachMeet is so brilliant.

So what did I learn? Well my more or less unedited notes are below. As I find better summaries of what was said, I'll post the links here.

Tom Barrett
was up first and talked about the Entertaible in his school. A truely facinating piece of kit that has interesting possibilities. However, even more interesting (I think) is how a good teacher in an ordinary primary school can make great things happen just by asking. Great stuff Tom! An entertaining and interesting presentation - entertesting even. :-)

John d'Abbo
said "Teaching is about relationships". He works with students who have behavioural and social difficulties. Created videos and audio stuff with them to help them communicate. One example was a young woman who had no friends. She started a weblog inspired by Anne Frank. Digital animation used but what the pupils were learning was co-operation and taking turns.

David Gilmour talked about using a family of blogs as a school website. He showed Preston Lodge's site as an example. The RSS feeds are turned into an emailed newsletter. This seems like a great idea. I wonder how many other schools are doing it? The frequent update of blogs would seem an ideal way to avoid the tired, rarely changed nature of most school sites.

Ian Stuart did a Skype presentation from Islay! (A first for a TeachMeet I think.) Islay is a geographically isolated community and the school wanted to help the children look beyond the classroom. They went for multi-age classrooms and project work. They use ultra mobile PCs and wireless projectors instead of Interactive whiteboards.

Alan Parkinson talked about Nings. Ning offeres a range of tools all in the one place. Gave the example of newedexcelgeog. Every member has a page. Loads of blogs and shared resources. Used to communicate. Easy to attach resources. Also a space for NQT to join and share. The people contribute. Alan makes sure he gives feedback. (See also Living Geography.)

Jaye Richards talked about Cathkin High School's use of Animoto. Use it to revise. Look for appropriate photos and then add music to create a video animation resource. See the GTC website for a write up.

Robert Jones - North Berwick High School. Using Tutpup and animation to inspire bottom set Maths.

John Davitt talked about a load of really interesting stuff. For example, KIVA connects people who need funding to get things going. Davitt's learning event generator - two boxes do xx as yy. Mixing the real world and the digital world with the GPS Track Stick - passive GPS. If you text the keyword links to 07624 804 638, you get a reply text with links to all the stuff hwe was talking about.

Kate and Louis Farrell - Giraffe Hero! A highlight of the evening.

There was loads more but I was having such a good time, I didn't make any other notes. As I said, I'll try to update and post links to people who were more conscientious. :-)

Finally, thank you for everyone who contributed in any form and especially, thank you to Ewan for what may be his last TeachMeet as an organiser (but hopefully not as a participant).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fun on Friday #4: Fixing stuff!

I was going to do this last Friday but got sidetracked into talking like a pirate! So, sorry for starting with old news...

The other week there, the pips went squiffy. No, not the singing group, the time signal broadcast on BBC radio. I heard the news item that talked about what went wrong and was amused by what they did to fix the pips. It reminded me of this old joke:

330/365: A Pink Hearse
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
A engineer, a mathematician and a computing scientist were in a car which broke down.

"No problem." says the engineer. "Open the bonnet. I have a screwdriver and a can of WD40 with me. I'll get it working in no time!"

"Hold on." says the mathematician. "Lets think about this logical first. We should make a list of all the possible problems in order of most likely to least likely before we do anything else."

But the computing scientist says, "Can we not all just get out and back in again? That usually works!"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SLF08: The Shape of Things to Come: Personalisation and Collaboration in Education

Live blog from a keynote by Charles Leadbeater at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Started by making positive comments about Curriculum for Excellence but also that we call SLF a learning Festival - not a Conference. Leaning should be a part of life, not an added extra.

Started with a canon clip from YouTube.

He asked the audience how many times we thought it had been viewed and started an auction. Bids started at 10,000 and had reached 17 million when Ewan McIntosh shouted out the answer - over 49 million hits! {For the record - my browser was at the spinning beachball stage and was on the verge of loading the results of my YouTube search when Ewan shouted out the answer. He says it's because his MacBook Air is faster than my MacBook Pro. I think it's just he's a better typist!} Can you imagine how the BBC would have reacted to a pitch from this chap? They would not have believed anyone would be interested in watching a clip of a few minutes in length filmed with appalling production values. But he is part of the generation who realise what can be done... at home. A generation infused with the idea that "they can" not that "they want to".

Evidence for England seems to suggest we have reached a performance plateau, that we are not tackling ingrained inequality and that the harder we try to hit the target (by measuring literacy, numercy, etc.) the more we miss the point (which is about collaboration, creativity, co-operation...).

It all comes down to relationships.
Standards matter but are we providing young people with the kind of relationships that help children learn. Relationships are built on Care (being treated with dignity...), Recognition (in many secondary schools, children feel only their exam results are valued), Participation (what can learners contribute, not just what they can receive?) and Motivation.

Learning with and by not to and from
A collaborative and participative way of learning. Derek Wise headteacher at Cramlington Community High School school, is putting this into practice. Learning is something we do best with other people but that then enables us to learn on our own.

He claimed education was like an egg on a plate. The school is like the yoke and we put all our efforts into getting better yokes. The white is the family and schools find it difficult to work here but perhaps the biggest area is the plate - the pupils' wider social community.

Order and calm: hard and soft power
Schools that do this, are not afraid to use hard power because they recognised the need for order and calm. But they recognise this comes from the culture of an institution, not just its rules. This leads to a real care for the social and emotional needs of the pupils. So mentorng schemes etc. were in place. Also, major effort into creating personalised learning. Personalised learning is not just about tools but is about an educational philosophy. Lead to the breaking up of spaces (schools within a school). Place, Timing, Pace and Space. For example, education took place outside the school in an allotment - this made it easier for parents get involved.

More integrated across phase. ("We call it transition, but it is more like disruption.") Big schools that feel small. Software should lead hardware - the software is the educational philosophy. The problem is that often the hardware (the building) leads the education. Wider measures of success. New leadership teams, e.g. more than one head, posts not tied to subject or age...

Parental and family learning. Have to find new ways of engaging parents, e.g. "third spaces" like the allotment. Efforts made to minimise disruption at home. It's about aspiration and ambition - recognising they have to create learning communities not just a service or an institution for some (children). However, headteachers and schools are not really equiped for this. So need to draw in community resources, make school resources available to the community and to disperse the schools into the community. To create learning led cultural change.

Ten ideas to close the gap between where we are and the YouTube generation - creative, productive and per-to-peer. How do we do this without getting into trouble?!
  1. Personal budgets for families at risk. Invest early - the right amount at the right time may avoid the big costs of a crisis later
  2. Emotional resilience for all. Perhaps this should be provided in a family but where it is not schools need to build that capacity.
  3. Break up big schools. There are economies in scale but benefits in smaller schools. So have a school within a school - allows for possibility of getting the attention needed.
  4. National peer learning programme - recognise pupils teaching.
  5. Scrap the summer holidays. We penalise parents who go on holiday when it is inconvenient to us.
  6. Build a capabilities curriculum - learning to learn etc.
  7. The personal challenge. Children not allowed to do things they are already good at.
  8. The community based teacher. Get out into the learning plate.
  9. Individual budgets for potential NEETs.
  10. Schools as productive enterprises. Not just work experiences and work shadowing. What about actually producing things and making money.
  11. {There was supposed to be ten, but I have 11... and I missed his tenth - my eleventh. - DM}
He said we should not dismiss this as too idealistic (as if that was a dirty word). He based this talk on schools that are already doing it - for them it is deeply practical.

The people who have the potential to gain most from innovation are those who are least well served by the current system.

If you treat a school as a rock, the only way to get it from point A to point B is to propel it. If instead you see it as a bird, you could tie it to a rock and throw it! However if it is a flock, the only way you can move it is to put out some water and bird seed!

SLF08: Can Nintendo’s Dr. Kawashima impact on mental maths? An extended study

Live Blog from Derek Robertson and David Miller at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Reporting on the reslults of a study looking at the impact of the Dr Kawashima games from the Nintendo DS on Maths in school. A small scale study found it had a positive impact on pupils maths skills. The study got a lot of good coverage in the media ("Even the Daily Mail was impressed") although there is still some suspicion (for example, see the BBC interview - "Snake oil?!").

Now reporting on the results of an extended study. Derek talked about Semiotic Domains. In school, teachers and adults have control of the Scool Domain. Children are in it, but they don't have mastery over it. However, in the Games Domain, the children have mastery. The hope is to overlap these domains and let children show what they are good at, but show it in the school domain.

With funding from various sources, they managed to get DS consoles for sixteen schools. They chose schools from four authorities with a geographical spread and a range of socio-economic backgrounds (although, they were weighted towards the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum).

David Miller from the University of Dundee then explained the methodology of the study. They used a randomised control study methodology and stratified randomised sample based on free school meal entitlement (an indicator of socio economic status).

Derek and David found that both the experimental group and the control group showed improvement in their maths ability. Both were statistically significant gains. (Good news for good teaching.) However, the experimental group's improvement was significantly better. Even more impressive was the improvement in the speed of completion where both groups improved but, once again, the experimental group's improvement was even better.

Slightly disappointing was that there was no real change in relation to the pupils' attitude to maths. When asked verbally, they said they thought they were getting better at maths but they didn't record this on the questionnaire form. Perhaps this is back to Semiotic Domain thing - they didn't associate the improvements in the game domain with improvements in the school domain. The researchers wondered if filling in a questionnaire on the DS might help.

They also found that less able children tended to gain more than the more able in terms of accuracy. However, this may be because it is harder to improve if you are already good. The "middle" group showed the most improvement in speed. Also, no difference between boys and girls.

The John Henry effect suggests that since you know you will be tested, a control group tends to over-perform. Obviously there is no way to check this but if there was a John Henry effect, the differences between the groups may actually be greater and the results from the DS trial could be even more impressive.

Lots of other questions were raised. For example, they found truancy/late-coming was reduced - is improved attendance sustained after the novelty has worn off? What other games can be used in schools? Does the increase in processing speed spill over into other areas? What is the potential for ASN or the disaffected? What potential is there for collaborative, shared, work on the DS?

A paper is available from the Consolarium blog.

{Extremely interesting study. Good research evidence. Solid methodology. Fantastic results. Brilliant! - DM}

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SLF08: Internet Safety and Responsible use

Live blog of Ollie Bray and PC David Gunn at Scottish Learning Festival

Ollie started off taking about the importance of partnership. The programme was developed in partnership with Lothian and Borders Police as well as Young Scot and CEOP and the Think U Know site. David Gunn praised the work of CEOP and the Think U Know site. Seeks to "empower" young people through education and to hold offenders to account. Free resources to all and some extra things for people who have completed the training.

In East Lothian, there are three parent workshops a year and are aiming to have at least ne trained person in each primary school and all secondary guidance staff. Also, all headteachers have had a one hour session. This has helped gain the support of all schools in the authority. They use Hector's World and Cyber Café.

Why start with the parents? Ollie was fielding complaints from parents on a Monday morning about online bullying. In general schools supervise and monitor Internet access. The problems therefore generally come from out of school, so important to raise awareness. A key aspect was marketing to parents. Letters posted to parents (not sent home with children), text messages sent as reminders and advert in local press.

The feeling is that by S3, they think they already know - even if hey don't, so important to educate younger pupils before the bad habits are established.

Lots of other resources include Safer Internet Day and the SQA Int 1 Internet Safety unit.

Education is important because 55% of teenager use the Internet every day, 33% have access in their bedroom. Online gaming is becoming more common and so predators are beginning to hang out in online games. In 2007, 25% said they have spoken with someone online and then met them in real life. They tend not to go on their own 83% take a friend, but the presenters say they have to take an adult.

They talk about the four Cs: Content, Commerce, Contact and {Curses! - missed it :-)} Adults and children tend to use the Internet in different ways. Also, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. The children know they shouldn't give out personal information in the street but are not wise enough to see that they are doing that on Bebo. Major issue is that the Internet is going mobile. It is on their phone via free wi-fi connections - moving out of the family home.

Mobile phones and the law. If you take a photo of a person under 18 then legislation applies. Means if they take photos of boy/girlfriends. If they then break up but send these photos to others, they will be committing an offence. Downloading an image counts the same as "making".

Something else children find difficult to understand is that it is almost impossible to delete. See for example the Way Back Machine. Even deleting an image from a phone doesn't get rid of it. Businesses also regularly Google their employees and potential employees.

Parents need educated as to what their children's games machines can do. They may have the machine in a family area, but don't realise what the games machines in their children's rooms can do. Online gaming is pitched at very young children (e.g. penguin world thing in Disney) and Habbo Hotel. These worlds are virtual - can meet friends if you are not allowed out to meet them and can change your appearance - all this is attractive to young people. Yet, Ollie showed excellent machinima video on Habbo hotel showing how easily an inappropriate conversations develop.

Ollie also made the point that some people are inappropriately interested in children but more are interested in theft! If your children give away your address inadvertently and then mention you are going on holiday and then ... :-)

SLF08: Thinking Out of the XBox

Live Blog of Ewan McIntosh's session at SLF.

How often do we encourage our pupils? It can get a bit grating to be constantly offering praise. Has to be genuine.

Ewan started by saying it's about the process not the product (Gave example of Katie Melua re-writing song to make it more accurate but poorer love song.) He argued that concentration on final product can lead to mediocrity. He talked about the peer assessment possibilities of blogs.

How do you assess something like Watch the World? Do you just look at the final product?

What are games offering that traditional education doesn't? One thing is "levelling up". The idea of ever expanding challenges. Also the idea of cheat sheets to help people improve. Gives a new way of doing things. Gave the example of Ollie Bray using Guitar Hero as the focus for a Primary/Secondary transition project. They looked at venues for the concert, costs, orienteering round the building, designing guitars in CDT, designing posters in Art, writing biographies in English...

Gamers are getting older - 66% of gamers have children - Nintendads. But are teachers playing games? Ewan suggested teachers are under-represented.

Ewan showed the clip of Tim Rylands teaching. Asked us to consider what was traditional teaching and what was new? How was he praising?

Old: He brought out basic grammar stuff like metaphor and commas. Offered praise. He was relaxed and happy to be in the classroom.

New: Sat amongst the class. Class were in charge of where they went. Lots of noise and comment on what was happening.

The children were upset that the teaching ended.

Tim Ryland makes a game out of using language. See for example the Punctuation Pyramid (grammar as a game) and the Visuwords site that allows you to explore words in a way that beats a thesaurus. Wordle analyses text and makes the most common words appear larger - you can see where words are overused or to get a visual feel for the tense.

Tim also records pupils telling their work while standing in front of the Myst scene they are describing. Can do this for free with iMovie or online with Jumpcut. However, don't devalue the written work. Children need to write to work out the best bits. See also Kim's blog on the writing her children did based on the game Samarost.

Ewan has published all the links and explained himself more clearly on his blog. He also gave some examples of fiction using new media an example from CSI in second life and the BBC river journey on GoogleEarth and the We Tell Stories site. Easy to create your own stories with GoogleEarth like We Tell Stories. Big Art Mob - putting art on the map and street art locator.

Games like Hotel Room Secret - like geocachingfor hotels. Why not let Primary 7 explore a Secondary school by following clues. Threw lots of games like Sharkrunners and WebWars. Also, wormholes into games like the Oceanic Airlines site (with the hidden html message)connected to the Lost programme. Imagine a curriculum based on wormholes!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fun on Friday #3: Arrr, Jim-lad!

Ahoy there me hearties! Avast ye blog-lubbers!

Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! (Which I is sure ye already knew.) Arrr! Google has got into t' spirit o' thin's - but not with their usual Google Doodle thin'. Instead, they be adding Pirate as one o' t' interface language choices:

From t' Google home page, choose Language Tools, then scroll down n' choose Pirate as yer interface language. Arrr!

This be a great idearrr, says I! An' if ye gets bored with Pirate, ye could always try Elmer Fudd or Bork, bork, bork! :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Edublogs Book Club Update

I announced a few weeks ago that I fancied picking up Ewan's idea of starting a virtual book club. A few people said they'd be keen to give it a go. Unfortunately, two book were suggested and we never... OK, I never picked the one we should all read.

Five Shelves
Originally uploaded by splorp
It is now less than a week to SLF and I'm worried that I've not been a good book club organiser. I've started the Homo Zappiens: Growing Up in a Digital Age and I must admit, I'm not enjoying it as much as I'd hoped. I eventually got around to ordering We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity and hopefully it will arrive soon.

The question therefore is, have any of you who said you were interested, started (or finished) either book? Given my ambivalence to Homo Zappiens: Growing Up in a Digital Age, at the moment, I'm inclined to go with We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity.

Either way, I hope to pose some questions on one of the books towards the end of next week. So, which book would you like to discuss?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fun on Friday #2 - Screen Cleaner

It's been an exhausting few days at the conference here and my laptop has been hammered pretty heavily. I think I should give the screen a good clean.

ECER 2008 - Effects of web based educational games on students’ success

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Gulten Senkul Gungormus of Baskent University, Turkey and Ahmet Mahiroglu of Gazi University.

Games are entertaining and motivating. Using learning games may help gain student's attention. Internet based games creates the possibility of supporting a community of players as well as allowing any time, any place access.

The problem however is to determine the effect of the games on learning. The researcher wanted to check success and permanency of learning measured against a group not using games. The study looked at a group of 50 1st year students. Twenty-five in test group and twenty-five in control (non-game) group.

The games developed were based on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It didn't look like it was multi-player.

The game playing group was significantly more successful. [I wonder if it was the enforced revison time that made the differnce rather than the game? - DM] They also compared with two tests- one harder than the other. They suggest that the games are more effective for harder tests [Again a revision effect? - DM] Also suggested something about web based materials without games were also effective. [I think... but I missed a bit here. - DM]

In answering, she says control group spent the same time doing online revision questions covering the same stuff as the games, so my revision questions can be ignored :-)

ECER 2008 - Identification of barriers to Participation in a Practice-based Virtual learning

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Anthony Michael Coles from Birmingham City University, United Kingdom.

Some of his university's modules have limited face-to-face contact so they rely on Moodle for continuity. Logs imply reasonable level of access but student behaviour suggests engagement is low.

Again, similar advantages and disadvantages as rehearsed in other seminars. (Referenced Joiner 2004.) However Joiner (2004), Kreijin et al (2004) and Frier (1983) suggest the "Nobody knows you are a dog" ideas are not strictly true.

Reasons given for non-participation were not always accurate. For example, students blamed technical difficulties and password problems but usage logs suggest this is not true. Of student's who did not use it, 50% thought they didn't need it. Despite induction training, 25% said they didn't know about it!

Participants who used it were fairly positive about its use for learning but less sure of its value for teaching.

The comment "I may try Facebook as that's how my friends communicate" was interpreted as a confidentiality issue. [Is that right? Is it just that they are doing it elsewhere already? - DM]

Again picking up previous comment, the students wanted to practise social interaction before doing "work". Have to see it as a social space not just a learning space - see Hall, R. (2006). Battery farming or free ranging: towards citizen participation in elearning environments. E Learning 3505-518.

Questions: The university did in fact discover that discussion was taking place between students ... But on their own Facebook sites. [See Creepy Treehouse! - DM] Could it also be the difference between formal and informal learning spaces?

ECER 2008 - Evaluating Interactional Processes of leaners with Hypertextual online

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Stefan Iske from Technische Universität Darmstadt and Norbert Meder from Universität Duisburg-Essen.

It's about trails and paths. About orientation.

The researchers were interested in the digital divide and digital inequaity but also about non-linear structures for learning (i.e. hypertextual).

Log files of page accesses can give loads of information. The data can be aggregated to give information about how many people visited, average time spent on a page etc. However, temporal data that describes a users path through the data. You can then look to see if there are similarities and how the pathways are grouped using Interaction Analysis. The researcher used Optimal-Matching techniques and Levenshtein Distance to group pathways acording to similarity.

[Interesting aproach to analysing what was happening but there was not enough in the presentation fr me to work out why you would do it. The researcher suggested it coud reveal different learning startegies. I supose this means you coud stucture materal more effectively to meet the needs of different learners. - DM]

ECER 2008 - Contributing and Participating in Academic Seminar Discourse

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Lars-Erik Jonsson and Roger Säljö from Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Students attending seminars can sometimes leave the seminar either annoyed that they were not able to make a full contribution or relieved they were not found out! Online seminars can help both groups of students.

The project tried to encourage useful participation by structuring the online experience:
  • Sharing an experience
  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Synchronising activities
  • Aiming for dialogue rather than monologue
The project also had student moderators who encouraged and focus discussion. One student was very effective at encouraging and participants from other groups would listen in on her group.


Participants must be prepared. In a face to face-to-face seminar, students can hide. Online, you have to contribute or effectively you are not there. To contribute, you have to prepare. Harder to hide your lack of preparation.

Writing is a powerful tool for the development of thinking.

Asynchronous contributions allow thinking time

More or less eliminates plagiarism - difficult to see how you could get someone else to write all your contributions for you. Also, during the discussions, you get to know the students and listen to their written "voice".

See Jonsson and Säljö's chapter in Institutional Transformation through Best Practices in Virtual Campus Development: Advancing E-Learning Policies

Question and Answer: It is of course possible for a participant's post is ignored. Partly this is the job of the tutor to ensure students are not overlooked.

Student moderators may not be necessary but makes students active and is valuable. However you cannot expect students to have a productive discussion on their own. You need a tutor asking difficult questions and pushing for better discussion. Social chat is encouraged but shouldn't be allowed to dominate.

Do some students benefit more than others from these seminars than others. [To be fair, this is true of any seminar - probably any form of learning! - DM] Some students will feel more of an outsider and as tutors we must be aware of this.

Is there a problem in using eLearning to learn about eLearning? The reponse was along the lines of, "Well that's what we do!" :-) Learning about learning is almost inherently circular in nature!

ECER 2008 - ‘How to make It fly?’ Engaging teachers In Virtual Collaboration

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Sanna Rimpilainen, Alastair Wilson and Donald Christie from the University of Strathclyde and Don Skinner from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Reported a common problem - initial enthusiasm for an online forum was not sustained. Their investigation revealed common issues that explained the lack of engagement. There were for example technical difficulties and the system was not as easy to use as the researchers hoped. Also teachers felt the aims of the forum were unclear. Some thought it was to be a resource they could access rather than a resource they would create.

However, teachers did report a concern ("fear"?) of contributing to a policy forum in case they "dropped the school in it". Teachers are concerned about saying what they are doing is good practice and more importantly, that their practice was good enough to share. Also, schools are different and at different stages of development.

How improve? Open to a wider group? There will always be more lurkers than active participants, so more people accessing increases the likelihood of an active forum that will bring the lurkers back. Also, starting school focused groups where he users already know each other and have more in common.

In answering questions: Admitted they didn't know each other implies the need to arrange socialisation activities.

[It seems a shame that no time was given for online socialisation. It seems participants were expected to jump in and start educational discussion. The online socialisation stage in Gilly Salmon's model is important. - DM]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ECER 2008 - the Web as Information Source

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Chiara Ravagni from the University Of Bolzano / Bozen, Italy.

Report from a librarian on a study of how to support student searches of the Internet. She started by collecting information on how her students search the Internet. Her hope is to help students improve their search techniques. For example, use of Boolean and other advanced search techniques. However, also interest in teaching them how to use the information they find (including basics such as how to reference).

ECER 2008 - teachers and Web 2�0 technologies: practice, pitfalls and potential

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Tony Fisher, Rebecca Graber and Colin Harrison from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Demos report: Digital Curriculum - Their Space. Recognised the potential for educational uses of social networks and Web 2.0 technologies. See also Social Software and Learning from Futurelab.

Part of the context in which teachers have to make decisions is the media interest, often highlighting the dangers, in social software.

Some themes emerged from teacher interviews. Teachers are concerned about the time it takes to do these things - to get to know the tools and to use them effectively. Teachers' attitudes to risk - personal risk as well as risk to pupils. Awareness of pedagogical opportunity - can be chicken and egg since you can't see educational uses until you have used it yourself. Contradictions raised by Web 2.0 tools, for example encourages collaborative work but individual assessment remains the norm.

Teachers know the Web 2.0 is motivating and widely used outside school. One teachers sharing his Facebook account but found pupils were not particularly interested in commenting on his facebook. Another teacher found Facebook too much work and committed Facebook suicide.

The example was given of a classroom rules wiki that had outrageous rules (e.g. "You must run in class"). The pupils were outraged, so the teacher showed them how they could edit it and an agreed rules wiki was created.

Only two schools in the sample didn't block YouTube! There is a major problem with the perception of risk. Teachers were aware of the need for propriety and were very carefful about what they would do. The speed of change is a major problem. Since technology is moving so fast, it is only the innovators and early adopters that have any hope. Everyone else will get left behind. Schools will never keep up!

Do you need pedagogical change before use of Web 2.0 becomes effective or will it drive pedagogical change? Do we have to question the whole nature of school?

Questions: Found that teachers access to hardware and Internet was as good if not better than pupils but social networking and online games were much lower than pupils. Email was the main use for teachers.

There was one example where a pupils was caught "making and instant messaging program". He'd hidden it on the school server and pupils were using it to help each other with Maths! School found it and removed it but he is now part ofd a group of pupils advising the school on new technology!

ECER 2008 - Students Use of Web2 technologies In and out of School

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Colin Harrison, Rebecca Graber and Tony Fisher from University of Nottingham, United Kingdom and Kit Logan from the London Knowledge Lab, University of London, United Kingdom

Reports will be available on the Becta website. Currently a couple of the initial reports and a literature review have been published.

What technologies were pupils using outside of school? Access to computer 98.4% and access to Internet 96.6%. Nost using email and instant messaging (89.4% - more girls than boys), 74% using social networking sites (angain girls more than boys) and 59% playing online, multi-user games (includes game console networking.

Schools were using blogs and discussion forums however schools claimed to be using them more than pupils reported using them! Also, no significant difference between ICT active schools and other schools. Most (95%) have watched video online (e.g. YouTube) but don't use online. Very few were uploading video and those who do were uploading videos take on their phone. Students report using Google and Wikipedia most. Wikipedea was twice as popular as the next most popular (BBC Bitesize).

Students said they would like to do more Powerpoint in school (to support learning) than any Web 2.0 technology. However, in Web 2.0 active school, blogs did feature more strongly.

Case study of a Web 2.0 school showed that the Web 2.0 uses were concentrated in the ICT department. Most of the Web 2.0 tools are open to the public - something that was important to the pupils as their school and their work can be found on an Internet search. It is structured, teacher-led activities.

In answering questions, the presenters explored the gap between what the schools reported and what pupils reported. Part of the problem is the way these developments have not spread through the whole school yet. Sometimes pupils are not aware of what is happening in other classes! The spread of Web 2.0 technologies was described as "diffusion" rather than "roll out"!

ECER 2008 - Studybuddy: a new approach to cooperative and competitive online learning

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Kristian Klett, Lisa Schulz and Daniel Weingarten from University of Cologne, Germany.

Background: Average age range of gamers is growing, both genders are playing games and the gaming market is growing. Age range means increased interaction between different ages. Although both genders are playing, they tend to chose different types of games.

The study is based on the idea that motivation is important. They asked what motivates students they found that social interaction and fun were key. Students online actvities centres around communication and interaction Few (none?) VLE platforms provide this type of motivation. Parallel was drawn with Google who created a game that asked people to describe what they saw in images. This information is what makes Google image search effective. People had fun playing a game and Google got good info to improve their search engine.

The Studybuddy system allows choices about game types, gaming partners and content. Students can also enter their own content. Aims to give instant micro feedback, overall feedback (e.g. score and rank after each game) as well as peer feedback (chat is included in the games and partners can give hints and tips).

We then started playing a game! I may report later how much fun it was. :-)

Update: The games were fun! However, we spent so long playing games, we had no time to ask questions. The games themselves are perhaps not that brilliant but the strength of the system (I think) comes from the user generated content (see the report from a session yesterday on how a school of nursing started using a multiple choice question tool in a VLE) the and the community of gamers that it supports.

It seems to be easy to create your own games and you can use audio, video, graphics... A couple of screenshots below might give you a flavour of how it looks.

For the record, I was ecer3 :-)

[I'd be interested in Derek Robertson's opinion on this - DM]

ECER 2008 - Social cohesion in schools

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presetation from Ton Mooij from Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Focus in last few years in the Netherlands (and across Europe) to promote citizenship, social integration and social safety. Addressing issues such as disturbance, aggression, bullying, ... All are effected by social and historical differences.

Goal of the project described to use interventions to promote social cohesion. Involve children in creating positive attitudes. Work based on previous study that found you could involve children in developing pro-social behaviour and that it did have a positive effect. Goal is to promote self-regulation. Data was collected by Internet survey. Reported a relation between school size and perceptions of social safety. [I'm not clear about what he said and may have to check this up but I think the findings were counter-intuitive - I think he said larger schools were socially safer - DM]

Reference: Mooij, T (2008) Education and ICT based self-regulation in learning theory, design and implimentation. In Education and Information Technologies. (In press.)

[Presentation focused on broad methodologies and numbers involved but I would have liked more on how they did it. How do you promote social safety? How do you involve the pupil? How can you promote self-regulation and personalised learning? -DM]

ECER 2008 - Personalising learning and self-regulated learning

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presentation from Gabrielle Le Geyt, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom.

Argued that self regulated learning and personalised learning have strong overlap but are not the same. Personlised learning assumes every child is different. Teachers have to develop a wide repetoire of teaching strategies and can lead to partnership between school, learner and parents.

Talked about how primary teachers saw ICT's role in personalisation more positively than secondary. There were also differences between subject specialists. For example maths teachers had low perception of value of ICT in personalising education. Pupil perceptions is that personalisation declines as they move through the school system. personalisation in the home - any time any place learning. However, some perceive this as causing problems, e.g. when school work intrudes in the home or where home intrudes in school (e.g. social networks and mobile phones).

Promoting a "P by P" approach Personalisation by pieces. Also promoting ICT to increase motivation. Also, sees a VLE as an important driver of personalisation. Important for VLE to be embedded in all the classroom practice.

Question was asked if Web 2.0 technologies would change attitude to VLEs. The government see VLE will lead inevitably to personalisation but VLE has to be used properly to be effective.

ECER 2008 - E-tutoring of e-portfolio’s: a feasible alternative for face-to-face contacts?

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presentation from Ann Maria Deketelaere, Faculty of Medicine, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

Report of work in a medical school. Found e-tutoring to be effective in improving student learning. Use an e-portfolio to support learning and stimulate reflection. The portfolio includes CV and reflection on clinical experience. Eportfolio and ementoring useful because of medical students being on placement. It is time and place independent and easier to set up than face to face.

The tutors had two different interpretations of the eportfolio. One group saw it merely as a way of providing professional guidance to students. Others saw it as a means of stimulating reflection. This led to different approaches to giving feedback. Some tutors found it time consuming and didn't see the impact. However the second group saw the benefits of the portfolio feedback for them and their students.

The students: Most saw the eportfolio as a way to document of experiences rather than as a a tool for reflection. However students who received lots of feedback saw it as less of an administrative burden, were more satisfied with the experience and ... [missed next bit but there were five aspects where the second group was significantly hapier with the portfolio. Happier educationally and practically. - DM] Point is that more feedback from tutors has a positive impact even though the tutors may be unaware of this positive effect! Furthermore, the feedback has an effect that is independent of the quality! The presence of feedback has a significant positive impact on student perceptions. [Somebody is listening! :-) - DM]

The researcher concluded that to encourage tutors to give feedback, thereby creating a more positive experience for the students, give them feedback on the impact of their interventions. :-)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ECER 2008 - Social software for reflective dialogue

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presentation from Carina Granberg, Umea University, Sweden

The full title of the presentation is Social software for reflective dialogue – is there any trace of reflection and dialogue in the students’ blogs?

Student assessment included the requirement to make at least two entries. The presenter is interested in internal and external dialogue. She sees reflection as essential for learning but requires a deeper level of reflection - not just on content but on the process and even the premise. The students tended to agree that reflection involves internal reflection but see the value of external dialogue - to talk through what they are thinking with fellow students. Two thirds prefered face to face dialogue seeing it as more social and faster. However a third valued the thinking time written responses allowed.

[Running out of power - may add more later. :-) - DM Update: More added!]

Two groups were studied. One saw reflection purely in terms of completing the assignment. They did bare minimum and discussion was very linear. Other group saw reflection in a much broader sense - to do with learning rather than just for the assessment. Their discussion was much more complex and they appreciated blogging as a tool that helped encourage reflection.
Both groups were equally unfamiliar with blogs and similar ICT skills.

[Trick of course to encourage group B behaviour in group A students! - DM]

In a subsequent blogging exercise, the tutor took part in the discussion and challenged students to reflect further. Also didn't set quantity of responses but asked for quality instead. The researcher therefore confirmed the importance of an active eTutor/eMentor in creating a positive, educationally valuable, blogging experience for students.

ECER 2008 - VLE Use in Higher Education

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presentation by Monica Johannesen from Faculty of Education, Oslo University College, Norway.

Actor Network Theory - As inspiration for research questions. This is a theoretical lens that aims to preserve the "hybrid" character of reality - between the technology and the person. It looks at the technology ans societal domains as tightly intertwined. It considers both human and non-human actors and defines an actant as an entity that does things and that works in a network of entities doing the same things. Three key concepts. Inscription: the intended use of an artifact. Translation: when an artifact is put to a new use (e.g. mobile phone used as a torch). Users enrol artefacts for their own interest. Blackboxing - proces where truth is taken for granted and never questioned (but perhaps should be!).

Examined teachers attitudes to multiple choice assessment tools. Looked at the Enthusiast, the Sceptic and the Unorthodox. Looked at uses, attitudes and pedagogical discourses. Perspective on learning - Assumes a behaviourist, cognative and sociocultural perpectives.

Findings. Faculty of Engineering use multiple choice and know when it is not appropriate. The lecturers are clear about what it can do an dwhen to use it. However, the Faculty of Education is very reluctant to use it. Resistant to the idea and do not see it as "fitting" their teaching. See it as the teacher writing the answer for the students instead of making them think for temselves. However, in the Faculty of Nursing, the students are writing multiple choice questions for each uther and distributing them on the VLE. [Brilliant! Looks to me like they are subverting a minimally useful tool and making it extrodinarily useful. - DM] The written comments on each others questions are also included in an assessment portfolio. Students therefore have to know their subject to make good questions.

Engineering as using the multiple choice tool as inscribed and think they know the cntent of the blackbox. The education faculty disagree with the inscribed use and are not interested in the black box. But the Faculty of nursing have transformed the tool and have opened up the black box and are interested in exploring and questionning.

The use of the tool in Nursing happened by accident - the students discovered the tool for themselves and started using it. [Again, brilliant! - DM]

Perspective on VLE Use in Higher Education

Presenter has observed that making material and lecture notes available in advanced changes what happns in lectures. She thinks it allows more discusion and less talking at in lectures. [Not sure about this. I wonder if this has been studiesd at Jordanhill where that sort of thing has been done for a while. - DM] Student sharing of texts is also interesting and could improve learning.

Student sharing shifts responsibility from lecturer to student. Students take responsibility for their own learning.

ECER08 - Teaching uses and Innovations in a Virtual Educational Space

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presentation from Christian Derrien, Université de Rennes.

Christian talked about the new wave of digital spaces. Four broadband programmes have been operating since 2003.

Eduvisits: Online visits to sites of educational interest, for example castles, salt-marshes etc.

People of Brittany: A portrait gallery of people involved in social, cultural and economic life. Designed to challenge and inform. [Looks like video portraits from the screen dump - DM]

Oceanimages: A thematic video library. Includes documentary films, poems, etc.

thesite.tv: "right-free" online audiovisual programmes for use in schools.

A portal site links these four projects together. Teachers had input into the design of the portal. One of the functions the teachers had added were buttons that link teachers to collaborative projects. Teachers also wanted more training and the opportunity to add their own input.

Currently used in about 100 schools but about to be rolled out to every school in Brittany. Schools prefer creative programmes rather than content. The most popular is the Oceanimages. [Not clear to me what is meant by "content" verses "creative" as the Oceanimages looks like content to me. The next example makes more sense. - DM] However, the People in Brittany project inspired the teachers to create their own portraits - written, slideshows, ... [This seems to suggest that the People in Brittany site was envisioned as a kind of online encyclopaedia but creative teachers were taking the content as an example and then getting pupils to produce their own multimedia portraits. Of themselves, or other people in Brittany? - Not sure. Either way it would be good. :-) - DM]

[More detail on Oceanimage helps me understand - DM] Oceanmages is a toolbox of multimedia resources (images, sound, animation, video, ...) that schools used to create their own multimedia projects "audiovisual writing". For example, teachers set their classes projects and the pupils then use the resources on the Oceanimages site to create multimedia projects. The example given was creating a montage to illustrate a song.

One of the positive outcomes of the programme is the collaborations between teachers. The research highlighted the positive uses of the material - some expected and some (pleasantly) unexpected.

My comments: I like the term audiovisual writing. I'm not sure if this is a widely used term or a fortunate translation of a French term. However, it is a great term for what should be an important literacy skill for today's learners. It made me think of SCRAN and I must admit that I do not know how much research has gone into the classroom uses of SCRAN. There is obviously a lot of research going into the resources made available through the Ticeo portal and the research is feeding back into making it more useful for schools and teachers.

ECER 2008 - Podcasting and Blogging – the way to learn

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Report on study from Mid Sweeden University by Maria Rasmusson, Susanne Sahlin and Marcus Sundgren

Student attitudes to podcasts and blogs. Report on an ICT And New Media As Support for Learning course for student teachers.

Podcasts were recorded lectures and were about 30 minutes long but students were expected to use their own blog and were assigned to write posts and comment on each others work. Students were “proficient to average computer users”.

Students reacted positively to the podcasts and comments included “Listening is better than reading” and saw them as an alternative or complement to lectures. Negative comments made were mostly around technical issues but some did say it was a “limited experience compared to traditional lecture”.

Blogs were very positively rated (85.7% thought it supported their learning). They appreciated the sense of writing for an audience. The blogs were public so writing for an audience beyond their tutors and peers. Some saw the potential as a tool in their own teaching practice. There were no real technical problems with the blog but a few expressed concern that the objectives of the blogging exercise were unclear.

The students valued the podcast and blogs as tools for their own learning.

My comments: In the question and answer session the presentrs talked about the entusiasm the students had for using blogs and wikis (but not really podcasts) in their classrooms. Perhaps the recorded lecture format did not show the real potential of podcasting. However, where the students benefited from the tools (blogs and wikis) they saw the potential. If I want my student teachers to be blogging teachers I need to encourage them to be blogging students. Better telt than felt!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fun on Friday #1: Which character are you?

We did our usual Getting To Know You exercise with the Computing students. I assumed that since they were Computing students we would have a fairly high Star Wars geek contingent, so one of the questions asked was: What Star Wars character do you most resemble and why?

For the record, my answer was: Has to be R2D2 - rotund and incomprehensible.

However, one of the students found the Which Star Wars character are you quiz. According to the quiz, I am Qui-Gon Jinn. The results are shown below.

You are Qui-Gon Jinn

Qui-Gon Jinn
Lando Calrissian
Mace Windu
Jar Jar Binks
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Jabba the Hutt
Darth Maul
Overall, you're a pretty well balanced person.
But maybe you focus a little too
much on the here and now.
Think about the future before its too late.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)

Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Test

So take the quiz and leave a comment to say who you are. :-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Imagine you threw a party...

...and all your RSS feeds turned up!

Ewan @ TeachMeet
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
If I remember correctly, this is a quote from a David Warlick podcast. If you see your RSS feed as an extended set of fellow explorers and learners, finding them all at the same party could be exciting (assuming you find learning exciting!). That certainly describes the feeling I got the when I attended the first TeachMeet at SETT. The group of people assembled, and the stuff we talked about, means it remains in my mind as one of the best learning events I have ever attended.

I'm pleased to say therefore that planning is now underway for TeachMeet08 @ The Scottish Learning Festival (9th edition). If you want to be excited about learning, head to the TeachMeet wiki and get involved!